Proper 10, Year A, RCL, Track 2
Today Jesus tells us a story of a sower who is being very reckless. He scatters seed in an aimless, haphazard manner; on the sidewalks, in the flower bed, under the trees where nothing will ever grow. Some of it does eventually make its way to the beautifully fertile soil but not most of it. This reckless scattering seems like a waste of time, money, and energy. The people hearing this parable must wonder why the sower is not focused on that patch of land where we know the seed will grow.
Now we know that this parable, like all parables, is not exactly what it seems and we can’t take it too literally. In Jesus’ explanation, we learn that he isn’t speaking about actual seed. The seed he refers to is the word of God, and the different patches of land are a commentary on how different people react to his word. We are then left with the sower, who we tend to think of as Jesus. But the more likely reality is that the sowers are the disciples and each one of us. After all, we are commissioned to go and spread the Good News across the land. So it turns out that we are the ones planting seeds and praying that the Holy Spirit will nurture them. Only in time will we find what happens to the seed that we scatter. And it seems that on occasion, maybe even on a rare occasion we will have a harvest; a harvest of new disciples; or more reckless sowers.
Now, most of the Episcopalians I have met are not known for being reckless. We tend to like our liturgy precise and formatted. We appreciate prayers that have been written hundreds of years ago. Church tends to be a place where order, decorum, process, and procedure often outweigh many other things. Now I know that not all Episcopal churches are this way but it is my observation that many if not most are. These traits may also apply to other denominations as well, but I can only speak for what I know.
I’m thinking back to the “good times,” the times before COVID. And I think, even back then, most of us found it hard to spread this seed that Jesus is talking about. In part, I wonder if it is because we were looking for that perfect place to plant the seed. A place where we know the soil will be fertile; a place that will almost guarantee that the seed will grow and become an abundant harvest. I also imagine that we do, on a rare occasion, find that perfect place, but when we do we hesitate; we may be afraid to speak about our faith, we may be hesitant to invite people that we know to join us in worshiping the lord at church. This hesitation and awkwardness we feel about spreading these seeds isn’t unusual, it isn’t specific to this parish. With this insight, we don’t seem to be the reckless sower that Jesus depicted in this parable. Possibly this makes it more difficult for us to relate to this stroy. So, let’s came at it in a new way.
I wonder if part of our hesitation is because we are afraid of what the other person will say. We put pressure on ourselves by attempting to find the right person, who will say yes. Who will understand God the same way we do. Or a person who will be similar enough to fit in with the others in our congregation. We, on some level, only want to plant seed in what we believe is the good soil. Maybe this is why we view the sower as so reckless. He is just throwing the seed without intent because I don’t think that the sower really know where the seed will land. He cannot tell what land is good, bad, weedy, or hard and rocky. The job that God gave to the sower is just to throw seed. It’s actually a much easier job then we make it out to be. There is no pressure to find the best piece of land or even to judge the quality; some being areas better than others. The sower just throws seed.
Now I can feel that a few of you are saying “it’s not that easy. After all, even if I feel the Holy Spirit stirring me to give this a try, we are isolating. I can’t speak to others, I can’t invite someone to church; we are not even having church.” While much of this may be true, technology has made spreading this seed much easier for you. Right now at this very moment, you can click share on this live stream. You can then choose “create a watch party.” And guess what? All your friends will see that you are watching this service and they will be able to join in. You have no need to speak. You don’t have to decide which of your friends will or will not join. They get to choose for themselves, no pressure, no commitment, and no sense of rejection. Now by doing this, you will look much more like the reckless sower. You will be scattering seed not even knowing where in the digital world it will go. It could land on someone who has been looking for some Good News in a difficult time. And if you do this again next week at the beginning of the service, they will be able to hear the word of God in scripture and participate more fully.
Sowing the seeds of God isn’t about choosing or worrying; it’s just throwing it out there and trusting that it will take root.